Maintaining a Clean Work Environment in a COVID-19 World
Building owners and managers finds themselves on the frontlines of the COVID-19 global pandemic as Texas welcomes back some of its office workers in a gradual reopening of the state.
Maintaining a clean work environment as people return to work is extremely important, especially in the Houston area, home to Harris County, which has seen the most cases of any county in Texas, and seventh most cases of any county in the United States with 58,480 confirmed cases as of July 21.
Texas went into shutdown mode in April with office buildings for non-essential businesses reopening at 25 percent capacity on May 18 and then to 50 percent capacity on June 3.
Gov. Greg Abbott paused the reopening for office buildings at 50 percent as new cases are on the rise in Texas and in early July, the state’s Minimum Recommended Health Protocols for Office-Based Employers was updated to include employees and customers wearing face coverings inside buildings when six feet of social distancing is not possible.
Resources for Building Owners and Managers
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace is essential for Texas to turn the tide in this public health crisis.
Fortunately for building owners and managers there are good resources to help the maintain a healthy work environment:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings, updated July 9, 2020.
- The Texas Department of State Health Services Minimum Recommended Health Protocols for Office-Based Employers, updated July 3, 2020.
- Harris County Public Health department Guidance to Mitigate Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, updated on June 1, 2020.
- The Houston Building Owners and Managers Association Getting Back to Work: Preparing Buildings for Re-Entry Amid COVID-19, updated April 24, 2020.
A common theme is that employees, tenants and contractors should be trained on new health protocols; that people entering the building need to be screened; that social distancing inside the build should be practiced; and that frequent cleaning and disinfecting of regularly touched surfaces must be carried out.
Educate, Screen and Sanitize to Stop the Spread
New health protocols in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 will not be successful if they are not communicated to all employees, contractors, tenants, and others using the building. Education extends to the posting of readily visible signage around the building reminding everyone of the best hygiene practices and other health mandates in place such as face coverings.
In Harris County, an order was put in place in June that states that “all commercial entities in Harris County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop, post, and implement a health and safety policy.”
Screening is key since COVID-19 cannot enter a building without being brought in by an infected person or item. Employees or others should not enter the building if, among other things, they:
- Had close contact with a person with a lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 test
- Feel feverish or have a temperature of 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
- Have recent loss of taste or smell
- Have a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Have headache, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, or diarrhea
Hand-sanitizing stations should be set up for people entering the building and offered in other high traffic areas.
Clean and Disinfect High-Touch Surfaces Frequently
The CDC recommends at the minimum to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily and encourages more frequent cleaning based on usage. High-touch surfaces can include door handles, desks, chairs, light switches, keyboards, handrails, printers/copiers, drinking fountains, bathrooms, and elevators.
The state recommends elevator use be limited to four people at a time with spaces marked off in each corner. Building operators may want to add additional trash containers to collect disposables and move to “touch free” items such as doors, faucets, and water fountains where possible.
If somebody in your building does test positive for COVID-19 you can contact Noble Building Services for advice on CDC-advised cleaning. Noble uses a two-step process which includes disinfecting the office to kill the existing virus and then laying down an antimicrobial barrier to protect touch surfaces moving forward.